January 18, 2019 / 9:19 AM / 6 months ago

India's Reliance jumps as results show consumer business thriving

MUMBAI, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Shares in India’s Reliance Industries rose on Friday, a day after the conglomerate reported record quarterly numbers that showed the strategy to diversify beyond refining and petrochemicals was beginning to yield results.

The company’s gross refining margins - a measure of its core profitability - took a hit amid volatility in oil prices and slowing demand globally, but its fast-growing telecom and retail businesses drove profit to new highs.

Analysts expect that while the outlook in the short term for the core business is challenged, it is the consumer business growth that will continue and support earnings momentum.

The “consumer business now contributes more than 25 percent of our EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation or operating profit),” said V. Srikanth, joint chief financial officer of Reliance Industries, on Thursday.

Reliance’s consumer business should see earnings growth of 18 percent over the next two years, Morgan Stanley said in a report.

The strong earnings growth and outlook for the consumer arm drove shares in Reliance up more than 4.2 percent on Friday.

Reliance has two segments to its consumer business - retail and telecom. While its relatively new telecom start-up named Jio has grown rapidly via offering cut-price data plans, its retail business that has been around for over a decade has now begun to grow quickly too.

Organised retail turned a profit in fiscal year 2014 but its contribution to the overall pie was tiny at the time.

On Thursday, Reliance said its retail business saw revenue doubling to 356 billion rupees ($5 billion) in the last quarter, while earnings before interest and taxes more than tripled from the year-ago period to 15 billion rupees.

The “kind of growth and sales we are seeing clearly point to a major growth phase in retail for Reliance,” said Abneesh Roy, a senior retail analyst at domestic broking firm Edelweiss.

Meanwhile, the billionaire Mukesh Ambani-controlled company saw EBIT from its telecom business more than doubling to 23.69 billion rupees in the quarter.

Jio has won over 280 million subscribers since launching in September 2016, while Reliance said it now operates close to 10,000 retail stores across the country. ($1 = 71.1510 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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